Pressure to stick to it even if no longer optimal
Your team and customers require a roadmap. They think it’s an essential input to most of the decisions they make. Whether to buy your product or not, or what the release themes will be or what needs to be researched ahead of time. And because it’s just so simple to put an item on a roadmap without incurring any costs today, you often end-up with a sub optimal plan to which you are bound to stick to.
Change means communication
A roadmap is a commitment, and if you want to change it, you have to deal with a lot of communication both internally and externally. This often can be a more stressful exercise for your employees rather than your customers. I had spent countless hours of communication internally to ensure our engineering, sales, marketing, and support is well aligned on what’s coming, what’s not coming and why the plan has changed. These “change” conversations and fire fighting are hard to handle and usually lead to zero improvement of a product itself.
Hyper-focus on roadmaps
What makes a roadmap so hard to do is also the fact that nowadays everybody is a roadmap expert. You can easily blame the roadmap when there is a bad business model, inefficient teams or unwilling to change management teams. Just search for Product Manager jobs in Glassdoor and you can spend 1-hour enjoying crazy definition of how a product manager should do his job in regards to a roadmap:
“Use evidence-based decision-making to intelligently prioritize and align the executive team with your product roadmap. You’ll regularly present why you’ve selected one direction over another for each iteration of the product, using compelling explanations backed by real data.” by Brandyourself, New York
Your executive team wants to see your roadmap so that they can perform their “Swoop and poop” management style.
Your best alternative: Valuemap
At Payhawk, I decided to ditch the concept of a roadmap and go for what I call a valuemap.
Valuemap focuses on value rather than time to group features. It’s the best way to communicate your path with customers in a SaaS world.
Super simple structure
You group features by value drivers that either benefit customers or your team.
- Customer value drivers answer the question: How do we save customer’s time or money or help them make money?
- Internal value drivers answer the question: How do we save our time or money or make more money?
Depending on the goals and problems you face, you can first prioritize the drivers by order and then prioritize the features in each driver on how to get there. Any bullsh*t on the valuemap will be instantly obvious to everyone.
It’s great for validation
Just like UX wireframes with no design emphasize your information architecture, a valuemap with no delivery schedules emphasizes value. At Payhawk, we uncovered a new customer segment and split our product in two editions to serve two different audiences based on whether a company works with an internal or external accounting team. A big chunk of our customers didn’t see value in some of the things that we were doing while others were overly excited about them. Since our conversations were mostly focused on value, we manage to understand what resonates for each segment most.
If you struggle to organize your current map into a valuemap, then you have a scrappy plan in place.
No commitment on dates
A plan is nothing, but planning is everything. The roadmap is bound by certain — dates, months or quarters. This is another pressure point where you could waste time debating about when rather than what. The valuemap is perfect for continuous delivery where your priorities and ideas can change quickly.
Inspire democracy and new ideas
Good ideas can come from everywhere, but I have often observed developers unwilling to suggest ideas because of the super-busy looking roadmap and tight delivery scheduled ahead.
Keep everybody on the same page when prioritizing
This is best illustrated in an article by Camille Fournier, CTO of Rent the Runway who has been struggling to get her team hit product milestones due to their desire to build quality and new systems. She has been struggling to communicate with her technical team that:
The job is not to build technical architecture, but to create living systems that support the growth of whatever business you are part of.
Your valuemap can promote great discussion around what’s important for the business and how this can align with your internal struggles. It’s often that the pressure a product manager feels is hardly visible by the engineering team.
No need for features “organization”
All of the roadmap and software tools out there are pushing you to organize your product in areas — Mobile app, Web portal, Back office and so on. This is how our productboard roadmap looked like before we ditched it.